Experts have been studying a hoard which lay undiscovered for centuries and say it sheds new light on life in Yorkshire 1,000 years ago.
Uncovered by a metal detectorist two years ago, the haul, thought to be a wealthy Viking’s life savings, has undergone conservation work, leading experts to draw new conclusions from the treasure trove, which has gone on public display at the Yorkshire Museum, in York.
Thought to date back to the late 9th or early 10th century, the hoard was found by a metal detectorist in pasture land in Bedale. A stone was found nearby, presumably left by the owner of the treasure trove as a marker, so they could return and find their belongings.
Almost 40 items were uncovered including an inlaid gold sword pommel, unique silver neck ring, one of the largest examples of its type ever found, a silver arm ring, 29 silver ingots, other silver neck rings and gold rivets.
Staff at the Yorkshire Museum, in York, helped unearth the treasures and earlier this year launched a successful appeal to raise more than £50,000 to keep the nationally significant findings in Yorkshire.
Natalie McCaul, curator of archaeology at York Museums Trust, said: “It is only now that the hoard has been conserved that we can see its real beauty and the incredible craftsmanship involved in creating some of the artefacts.
“The Anglo Saxon sword pommel is probably the stand out piece.
“This is something that has been plundered by the Vikings and the conservation has meant we can now see the fantastic and delicate gold leaf patterns much more clearly and in some cases for the first time,” she said.
The large gold sword pommel is believed to be from an Anglo-Saxon sword, made from iron and inlaid with plaques of gold foil. The plaques bear Trewhiddle style decoration - named after a hoard found in Trewhiddle, Cornwall - consisting of animals, which was a common style all over England in the ninth century.
The decoration is usually applied to silver and copper alloy and its use on gold is rare, while its use on large foils, like those found, is otherwise unknown.
Conservation work has revealed the gold leaf work, which would have been done by highly skilled craftsmen, on the sword pommel for the first time.
A museum spokesman said: “The Anglo Saxon gold sword pommel, its guard and the gold rings from the handle were all removed from the weapon at some point before burial. Samples taken from the guard reveal both textile and wood fragments, suggesting the sword may have been wrapped in cloth and the hoard was buried in a wooden box.”
Conservation has revealed that several of the ingots in the Bedale Hoard have been engraved with the symbol of the cross, linking these parts of the hoard to Christianity.
Miss McCaul added: “The hoard is really making us think about this part of Yorkshire in the Viking Period in a different way. It contains objects from across the Viking world including rare and unique pieces such as the huge silver neck ring; one of the largest examples of its type ever found.”
She has previously said that the would have been a wealthy Viking’s life savings buried for safekeeping but for some reason never returned to.
The hoard will be on show in the Medieval Gallery of the museum from today.
Like many hoards of its era the Bedale find is dominated by silver ingots but there were also other interesting finds.
It also contained a piece of a ‘Permian’ ring, cut as hack silver – a design of Russian origin.
A broad, flat arm-ring of Hiberno-Scandinavian type, made by Vikings in Ireland, was also in the hoard. This is decorated with a pattern of stamp impressed grooves. Also from Ireland are hack silver remains of a bossed penannular brooch.
A unique neck collar, one of the largest examples of its type ever found, is made up of four ropes of twisted silver strands joined together at each end. They terminate in hooks which would have been linked together when the collar was worn. There are other twisted neck rings, one of which has been cut into two as hack silver.